Roses for Alice

by

Volodymyr Vladimir I. Druzhshchienschkyy

All the names have been changed with the exception of one, Alice, and that is to whom the roses were given. It has been over thirty years and in that time Alice has floated in and out of my memory and consciousness many more times than I have ever told anyone. Some things are never forgotten even though they are never to have been realized in any other time or place, and in that there are many situations that defy reason and understanding. They are what happened and what makes you who you are. Such is the case with Alice. She is one of those people that will always be with me until my dying day and beyond, and always held in high esteem. Alice, that night I first met you was so by accident and so by chance. I had not expected to be in that awful run down Denny’s at that time of the night and neither had you. For both of us it was a stop off of life that fate had destined. Atlanta was hot and humid that night, and I was riding that rice rocket of a motorcycle I had at the time instead of driving my car. Sure, it was a restless night for me where I could not stand to be with myself and could not stand to be alone or with anyone else. And somewhere in that haze of restlessness we met. You were there with your older daughter Denise, just sitting there talking away, and I was four tables away. Why I started talking to you that night from where I was and over the others in-between I will never know. I still remember you and how you looked that night with your blond hair, sparkly eyes, and bright smile. I couldn’t help myself, I had to talk to you and the same was true for you. Hard to believe we sat there and talked for over an hour while your daughter just watched and listened as I moved to your table. There was no verbal invitation, yet you said everything with your presence. You beckoned me with your eyes and like magic, a carpet was rolled out from you. Oh, I stepped cautiously at first with light little steps and then when it was clear to both of us there was no doubt that it had to be, the rest fell into place. Asking you for your number was as effortless as your giving it to me. It just had to happen, it had to be. -1Copyright © 2010 Volodymyr Vladimir I. Druzhshchienschkyy. May be used in whole form for personal noncommercial use and translated. All other rights reserved.

That glorious summer unfolded as I began to know you, your situation, and your children. Even with Denise in college the other two were keeping you busy beyond what you could do with a full time job. I know it was not easy to be everything being divorced. You did not ever have to tell me as I understood much of what you could never say. One thing led to another and soon we were seeing each other almost every single day. I remember that summer quite well as I am sure that you still do to this day. You were that Jersey girl with the bright smile … always that smile. In time you began to tell me of your past and everything that you could never share before. Never in a million years could I have imagined what you carried beneath that smile. I was your friend, I was your lover, and we were each other’s for those brief months in time. I was busy and so were you, but we grabbed whatever time we could to be with each other whenever we could. It was like getting away with something that we knew we should have, even though we both had a past and all that came with it. That day when you were at work I went and got you two dozen small presents and wrapped each one myself with different paper and ribbons along with different small cards that I made. They were all things you had mentioned that you liked. I had a key and let myself in. I placed them under your pillow on your bed, on the counter in the bathroom and in all the places I knew you would normally go when you came home from work. For me it was amusing and exciting for I knew you needed something to brighten your day. I could not have imagined the impact this would have on you. Both Andrew and Kathy had gotten home from school and they were none the wiser since they had a different routine. Your boss was on you and you were late getting home that day. Andrew, your son, had called you at work to ask if you would bring pizza on the way back. I could just see you pulling in the garage and yelling for Andrew to help you bring everything in. Andrew was always upstairs with the TV on and could never hear anything, and the same with Kathy your daughter. I could just see you with two bags of groceries, two pizzas, your purse and brief case struggling up the stairs. From there you would set the pizzas down, the bags of groceries, and yell for Andrew and Kathy to help you. Normally you would yell loud enough so as to be heard over the TV until they came down and helped. I could just see you looking at that little present there by the cookie jar on the counter and wondering what that was and why it was there. I could just see you reading the card with that surprised look you always got. I know what was going through your mind. And then you opened it and smiled. The next thing you did was run up the stairs to your room to the bathroom like you always do, and there was another different present on the counter. Yes, I knew what you would do. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall watching you that day. I was out and when I came back to my place the phone was ringing and it was you. When I answered you were uncontrollably crying and the only thing I could understand was that you wanted me to come over right then. It was a thirty minute drive to your house from mine. On the way I was wondering what Andrew and Kathy were thinking. That thirty minute drive seemed like two hours. I really wanted to see you. Andrew and Kathy had never seen you like this before and had called the lady next door and her husband. What were your next door neighbor’s names, Martha and Bob? Martha was telling your son and -2Copyright © 2010 Volodymyr Vladimir I. Druzhshchienschkyy. May be used in whole form for personal noncommercial use and translated. All other rights reserved.

daughter that it really, really, really was okay. You were sitting at the kitchen table with all these little presents, many of which were still unwrapped. You were a mess. You had been crying all that time. I remember what you said between your sobs. “It wasn’t my birthday. It wasn’t Christmas. It wasn’t Valentine’s. It wasn’t anything, but an ordinary day. Oooh God, oh God, oh God, no one ever did that for me. No one. Ever.” I held you in my arms while you just cried. Martha kept telling Andrew and Kathy you were happy. I remember both of them being so perplexed. Bob was sitting there and kept repeating that he was speechless. Alice, no one will ever forget that day, ever. It took you the rest of the next day, Saturday, to find the rest of the presents. I remember that being around you made me want to be better. It just was something that was awakened inside of me. There was something that was so inspiring that came from you. There were many things I did not understand about you and your situation and your children, but I was constantly trying and making the stupid mistakes I made with the best of intentions. I really wish that I had had someone with the wisdom of life to have told me what to do and not to do, but all I had were my own misguided judgments and nothing else. You had been divorced for quite some time and I had never been married before. Andrew resented me, Kathy avoided me, and we both tried our best to make it the best for everyone. You were always so surprised when I helped you with things without your having to ask me. I would see it in your eyes. You would put your head down slightly and to the side, half way look up, brightly smile that happy smile and say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah … yeaaah” with your cute Jersey accent. I knew that there were things beyond our control that were always on the periphery of your life from your past. The problems you had with your ex were real problems that periodically kept surfacing. It was not at all easy for you. All you wanted was for things to be normal, and they never were. There were times when things got so bad that you would tell me how sorry you were for ever being with your ex. I know it hurt and hurt and hurt, and when you thought it could not hurt any more, it did. Martin was your ex and after he got divorced from you he got married the next week. The only problem was he did not tell you about this until two years later when he could not come to see Andrew get an award at school. I don’t blame Andrew for wanting his father there, and not me, and I understand how you wanted me to be there instead of his father. You couldn’t do anything about the situation and neither could I. It was just the way it was. Everyone suffered a disappointment in their own way and dealt with the grief of not having any of their roles fulfilled. I could have understood it more if Andrew’s father, Martin, had showed up, but he didn’t. He didn’t even tell anyone until the very last minute that the reason he couldn’t be there was that he had a new family for the past two years. I understand why Andrew never went to school that night to get his award. Andrew never understood that I understood. I know that Kathy had held out some type of hope of seeing her father for Andrew’s award. It never happened and she started to become more distant. I remember how Kathy looked several months after her sixteenth birthday. There was something very wrong. She could not talk to you, nor would she ever consider talking to me. It was becoming more and more obvious with her not feeling well in the mornings as to what was going on. You knew and I knew, and you were just waiting for Kathy to say something. She had to eventually. Something had to give. While this was starting to unravel it was driving a wedge between the two of us. I was your friend and lover, but I could not be as a husband to you or as a father to your children. The situation would not allow it and it was no one’s fault; it just was. Your ex, Martin, was an upper level executive for a large Fortune 100 company. He was use to getting his way no matter what he had to do or who he had to crush. I was beginning to slowly understand what you had to have endured all those years. When the school counselor called you that day to come in for a -3Copyright © 2010 Volodymyr Vladimir I. Druzhshchienschkyy. May be used in whole form for personal noncommercial use and translated. All other rights reserved.

conference, you already knew that this was the only way Kathy could tell you that she was pregnant. The situation had to be addressed and a decision made as to what was going to happen. After being absent for over five years your ex, Martin, decides that he wishes to exercise his parental rights. That was all Kathy needed to drive her further away from everyone. Martin had the final say since he was paying the alimony, child support and had Kathy and Andrew on his corporate health insurance. To Martin this was a situation that needed to be resolved so that it would not interfere with his job any more than it had. Martin called his corporate people and they decided that Kathy was mentally ill, and had her committed to a private mental institution for behavioral modification until such time as she would have the baby and put it up for adoption. Kathy was getting more and more distant from everyone, and I do not blame her at all. I did not understand everything at the time, but I do now, all these years later. Alice, I wanted to have done something for you and for Andrew and Kathy, but you would not let me. You were being swept away from me by the situation. You wanted Martin to at least now do something that he was suppose to have done all those years ago. You did not have the resources to address the situation, but Marin did. I had the resources, but you would not let me help you. Alice, I would have done anything for you. I was there that day that you went to see Kathy at the private psychiatric hospital. I remember the way they were treating her and what it did to you and what it did to me. I remember how they were coercing Kathy by giving her a choice to comply with what they directed or they would have the orderlies come in, restrain her and medicate her so she was compliant. I saw how Kathy looked at you when they told her that, and I remember how she looked at you when you told her to just do what they say and she will be out of there in a few more weeks to deliver and then she won’t have to go back. I started to say something and all you said to me was, “Please … no … later.” We both signed out at the front desk and drove back to your house without saying a word. I was holding your hand while I was driving, but you were not there, you were someplace far, far away. Kathy was not out in another few weeks. They kept her there until the day before she was to deliver. I was there with you at the hospital that day when she delivered. The doctors never told Kathy whether she had a boy or a girl. The adopting parents were there the next day and were the only ones who knew. The papers were already signed by Martin and the only signatures required were from Kathy, and you. You walked into the room with the attorneys and signed the papers and it was done. Just like that everything was wrapped up nice and neatly. Everything was suppose to have been resolved, but nothing was. It hung in the air from then on. After that day Kathy’s boyfriend never talked to her again. He disappeared like the rest of Kathy’s friends and not a word was ever mentioned about what had happened. After Kathy came home from the hospital she started to play the piano for hours on end. Andrew became more involved with school and had less and less to do with her. I watched everything unravel again and fall apart. You tried and tried, but there was only so much of you that you could give. It was like there was nothing left for you for yourself. The situation had taken its toll on everyone with the exception of your ex. You tried to be there for Andrew and Kathy even though they did not want you to be there for them. There was no getting through to them from you, or me, or from us together. There was nothing solid for anyone and nothing solid that anyone could create. It was not that you did not want me around, you did not want anyone around. You were going through the motions for about a month after that. I would call and listen to a resigned quality in your voice that

-4Copyright © 2010 Volodymyr Vladimir I. Druzhshchienschkyy. May be used in whole form for personal noncommercial use and translated. All other rights reserved.

was never there before. You would see me and I would see you, but you were not totally present. You were not you. There was a part of you that was almost lifeless and completely subdued. That one Saturday afternoon we were sitting on the back deck being with each other. It was one of those rare moments that gave me hope again. You were starting to begin to be yourself and I was starting to begin to trust that things would be back to where they were for us. We were both on the deck in the sun holding hands just being. The phone rang and you answered. There was some conversation about fifty dollars and a medical bill. I could only hear your part of the conversation and I got that sinking feeling that something was very wrong. You hung up the phone and were motionless. Your hands, arms, and body were lifeless, like all the blood had drained from you. I gently put my hand on her shoulder and asked, “Alice love, what is it?” You rolled over with tears running down your face and in a voice that was cool and metered said, “Martin is not going to pay fifty dollars for Andrew’s visit to the doctor.” “He is not going to do one God Damn thing. Nothing, nothing at all. He said that he has done enough for my kids. God Damn it he is their father and he’s telling me they’re my kids. I spent over seventeen years running all around this country for his career and uprooting Denise, Andrew and Kathy. We moved at least once a year and for what? For what? So that I have to fight him for fifty dollars? I didn’t have a life, my children didn’t have a life and for what? For what? Answer me God Damn it, answer me. For what? This? Look at me. Look at Andrew. Look at Kathy. Look at them. They’re not happy. We’re not a family. We’re a corporate resource that got used up. And we’re no good for them any more. What’s all this for? Martin’s career? No one here has anything. We don’t even have ourselves.” By now Alice was screaming at me. There was nothing I could do except stand there. She was hitting me, crying, and screaming. I was not aware that Andrew and Kathy had both come down and were standing on the deck behind me. Martha and Bob from next door were out in the yard and came over. Martha had gotten to the top of the stairs to the deck and asked Alice what was going on. That is when I heard Andrew from behind say to Martha, “It’s my dad. He pulled one of his fuck yous on mom.” Martha shook her head indicating she understood and turned and left without saying a word. Andrew and Kathy walked back inside and left Alice and myself on the deck. She slowly collapsed in my arms and I held her there in an embrace on the lounge chair while she cried until there were no more tears. We stayed there until it began to get dark. It was like a chapter in everyone’s life had finished and was over with a finality that left no room for any consolation or grace. It was hot and humid when Alice and I went back inside. We went back inside and sat down at the kitchen table which is where we always seemed to end up. Alice looked at me with a resolve that I had never seen before. “You don’t know how sorry I am that all this has happened. I never wanted things to be like this. All I wanted was to do the right thing and be happy. I want to be by myself. Okay? I know you will say, ‘Okay.’ Okay? I need to hear you say it” “Okay, Alice ... okay.” I hated to leave like that, but I knew I could not stay. I had to go. I did not want to go, but that was the only thing I could do. The usual thirty minute drive back was like thirty hours and in that time I was totally by myself and alone. There was no place to go and there was nothing to do. It was like that same -5Copyright © 2010 Volodymyr Vladimir I. Druzhshchienschkyy. May be used in whole form for personal noncommercial use and translated. All other rights reserved.

feeling that night I first met Alice. I had this sick raw feeling that permeated every fiber of my being. It was a feeling that you can not ignore or shake away. You can’t run from it or anything else. It’s just there with you and you have to ride it out and deal with it. It took me longer than usual to make that drive and on the way back every single experience I ever had with Alice was replayed in my mind. I was exhausted and immediately fell asleep with my clothes still on. It was three in the morning when my phone rang. I knew it was Alice. I picked it up and before I could say anything she said, “I love you. I can’t love you. I love you. I want to love you and I can’t. I want to be with you and I want you to be with me and I can’t. I want you to know how much I love you. Come back over and be with me. Come back over and be with what’s left of me. I want to give you all of me and I don’t have all of me to give. I can only give you what I’ve got and I am so, so, sooo very, very sorrry.” I could hear it in her voice. “Alice, I’ll be there.” “I know that. You always are, and it just kills me with everything that happens. I love you. I can’t love you the way I want. I want you to know that. I want you. I really, really do, and I can’t have you.” “Alice, I’m leaving right now. I’ll be there.” I hung up the phone and drove back over. When I drove up she was standing in the front door waiting. I walked up and I embraced her and she with me like never before. We just stood there in each other’s arms for a very long while before going inside and closing the door. Over the next several weeks Alice and I both tried to make happen what we could not make happen before. Andrew even asked me a question about his homework which was a first. Kathy was sitting there one day after school before Alice got back from work. She looked at me with a far away look and with words slowly tumbling from her mouth said, “I wish that you could have been my father with my mother.” She nodded her head slightly to say yes and got up and went back to playing her piano. I always had a spontaneous quality that Alice loved. There were times when I would take her to a movie, any movie, and I would buy tickets after it had already started. She would always tell me that the movie started and that we were missing part of it. I would always reply to her that it was like walking into another person’s life with whom you want to be. You have missed the part that happened before you met them and many times that is a good thing, but what really matters is what you do from the time when you come in. There were many movies of which we never saw the first part and others where we would go back and catch the part that we missed, but only if it was a good movie, otherwise we would let it go and do something else. There were times when I would get her small bunches flowers for no reason. It was part of me. It was what I did. I never liked the usual holidays so I would make up a special occasion for us to celebrate. th Like November 15 is when I decided that we would celebrate being together on the fifteenth of November. She would just start laughing when I would tell her that was the reason for celebrating. I use to do things like that, just cause. Sure, there were some standard holidays we celebrated over those months we were together, but they were never as special as the ones either one of us made up. There was one day we were walking along and I happened to see a flower shop, that is a real flower shoppe. I asked Alice to wait for me at one of the stores she liked because I wanted to get something. I -6Copyright © 2010 Volodymyr Vladimir I. Druzhshchienschkyy. May be used in whole form for personal noncommercial use and translated. All other rights reserved.

walked in the shoppe and looked around. I told them I would pick the flowers myself and put them in a bundle. The lady there told me she had never done this before and I told her that this is as good a time as any to start. I picked well over a dozen long stem red roses and well over three dozen smaller red roses and arranged them with other greenery the way I wanted. When I was done the bouquet was about two and a half feet in diameter. Alice was five five and the bouquet was wider than she was. She did not see me walk into the store where she was and when she turned around and saw me with the flowers she screamed and started laughing like she always did when I surprised her. There were about fifty or so people in the store staring at us. She asked me what I was doing and I told her that I got her some flowers. She got wide eyed and periodically giggled like she always did when she was happy. Yeah, that was Alice, my love Alice. We walked over to a restaurant with her holding her flowers to get something to eat. It was comical because when we went in she commented to the maitre d’ that she got some flowers. He shook his head and said, “Oh yes madam I can see.” You can’t imagine how proud Alice was of those flowers. She was like a small child at Christmas. She wanted to tell everyone about her flowers. It was wonderful to see her happy like that. It was also comical seeing her trying to get them through the back door of my car without disturbing the arrangement. The flowers made the trip back in the trunk where they actually fit. Though there still was turmoil from external forces there were some wonderful memorable times over the next several weeks. There was a part of Alice that was wanting to grab onto anything to keep whatever we had intact. We met for lunch, and when she was getting ready to go back to work she stopped, turned around and was fully present like I had never seen her before. “I want to have your child. I want you to get me pregnant. I want us to have this together.” Her past was still in the present and not in the past. If the situation had been different she would have never had to have said anything, it would have been understood between the two of us. She did not want to be tied to where she was and wanted to do anything to move forward. I started to say, “Alice” and she quickly put her hand over my mouth. “I know, I know, but I had to let you know. I had to let you know how much even though I know. And it kills me to know what could have been if things had been different. And it kills me to know what can never be. But I wanted you to know my love. You are my love.” Alice turned and walked away. I knew she was crying and so was I. Yes, I was a mess. Here it is over thirty years later and I am crying while writing this just like I did that day. So much has happened in that time since I last saw you Alice. And I too have often wondered how things would have been different if I had met you in a different place and time. I have tried to rationalize what did and did not happen. I have tried to think about things, maybe in another life, or a different life, or the next life. The only thing I know is what I felt for you and what you felt for me. I have had this idea that things did not work out the way they should have, they worked out the way they did. I have always thought about you over the years and have wondered about you. I have always wanted to think that things worked out for you and that you were happy like those times we shared. I have always wanted to think that Denise, Andrew, and Kathy turned out well. Those are my wishes and hopes for you Alice. So no matter Where You Are Alice, I Wish You the Absolute Best

-7Copyright © 2010 Volodymyr Vladimir I. Druzhshchienschkyy. May be used in whole form for personal noncommercial use and translated. All other rights reserved.

Roses for You Alice Always Just for You All My Love Now

-8Copyright © 2010 Volodymyr Vladimir I. Druzhshchienschkyy. May be used in whole form for personal noncommercial use and translated. All other rights reserved.

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